Persistent teacher shortages, particularly in high-need schools and subject areas, have led to substantial investments in designing, implementing, and studying varied teacher preparation models. One such model and promising solution to address teacher shortages is teacher residency program (TRPs). These programs are funded by the U.S. Federal Government through Teacher Quality Partnership (TQP) grants to institutes of Higher Education (IHEs) partnered with local school districts. These accelerated teacher preparation programs couple an immersive teacher residency with coursework throughout candidates' preparation year. Research on TRPs has focused on outcomes related to staffing such as teacher retention. The current study sought to address gaps in this research by examining the implementation process of TRPs including successes and challenges encountered, perceived impacts on multiple stakeholders, and best practices. For this study, TQP grantees were invited to participate in semi-structured interviews, conducted by one grantee's external evaluator. One-hour, in-depth telephone interviews were conducted with IHE program staff and faculty (n=17) and district partner staff (n=7) from six IHEs across the country.
Study FindingsKey findings from the interviews were grouped into three areas:
- Hallmarks of Successful Partnerships
- Meaningful Impacts and Effective Practices
- Challenges of Implementation
Hallmarks of Successful Partnerships
- Relationships had to be built intentionally with partners who were both internal (e.g., faculty from a different department) and external (e.g., school districts) to the IHEs.
- IHEs stressed the importance of entering into partnerships as respectful and humble learners, not as 'experts'.
- Having a dedicated program staff member prior work experience in the target district as a dedicated district liaison was extremely helpful.
- Clearly defined roles and responsibilities among partners was important for smooth program implementation.
"We were able to prepare teachers who are highly qualified, really highly qualified, and who are able to step in and begin to make a difference as soon as they began their teaching career, not three years after." - Program Administrator Faculty
Meaningful Impacts and Effective Practices
- Interview participants stressed the increased professionalization of the
teaching practice observed in participating residents, mentor teachers, and
schools. This was attributed to:
a) integrating coursework with immersive field experiences
b) whole school professional development
c) development and expansion of extensive professional networks
All these experiences led to increased leadership opportunities for participating residents and mentor teachers (Figure 1).
- Reciprocal learning was a key feature of TQP models that encompassed not only residents and mentors learning from each other, but also IHEs learning from the field in multiple ways, as manifested in revised course curricula.
- Residents and mentor teachers alike became reflective practitioners through TQP participation. The mentoring experience was reflective in nature and several programs promoted the use of student data to drive classroom planning and teaching
- Careful processes that involved IHE and district partners were essential to recruiting residents and mentors and matching residents mentor teachers successfully. Overall, job placements went smoothly because TQP graduates were known to districts and principals and had reputations of being highly qualified.
- Multiple program components were institutionalized and sustained, such as improved coursework, adopting a cohort model for teacher credential candidates, and interdepartmental collaboration at participating IHEs.
- The logistics required for successful recruitment and matching of residents and mentor teachers were significant and required troubleshooting at different timepoints over the course of the programs.
- Resident placement was challenging. In some cases, this was due to a lack of quality mentor teachers and in other cases geography required residents to travel great distances or endure urban traffic, which impacted their tight schedules.
- Available teaching jobs were not guaranteed after program completion, so alternatives had to be defined such as serving as substitute teachers.
- The accelerated program model was very demanding for residents. Significant supports, both financial and emotional, were required to ensure candidates’ success.
- Obtaining student-level data to assess program impact was very challenging. Alternative data sources needed to be implemented to understand program impacts.
- Substantial financial resources were required to support residents and mentor teachers with stipends. IHE budgets cannot provide this support without additional external funding.
- IHEs and school districts are complex bureaucracies. Human resources policies and staffing changes were challenging to address in some cases.
Figure 1. Increased Professionalization of Teaching Practice
Challenges of Implementation
Considerations For Future TQP Awardees
These considerations focus on the importance of respectful relationships in building strong partnerships, the care required to design a program that is rigorous and accelerated while preparing teachers to be successful in high-needs settings, program participant recruitment, job placement for graduates, data needs for measuring impact, and the sustainability of program components.